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Franklin County Acts To Attract 500 Middle Class Jobs

Franklin County commissioners today are expected to greenlight a $300,000 grant to help IBM find qualified workers for $30 an hour jobs. That's a solid middle class wage at a time when economists and community activists say such good-paying jobs have been in short supply. As a financial services manager for Impact Community Action, Christopher Jones, sees the personal side of the job market. "We still have a lot of people in Franklin County that are either impoverished or low to moderate income." Says Jones. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services says more than a third of the most recent online job postings in Central Ohio offer salaries below $30,000 annually. By contrast, a full time $30 an hour job will pay more than $62,000. Federal census calculations estimate the median earnings for workers in Columbus is $28,300 annually. So, Jones says that means individuals or heads-of households often have more than one job. "Pretty much almost everyone who comes through our door has two or three jobs." Jones says. "Y'know they got this job that's kind of convenient to taking care of the family and being available with the kids when something happens to the children. But, they have this other night job that maybe at that time the found someone to babysit and now they can go and work and make some money to actually at least get them by until the next paycheck or the next month." While the job market both regionally and statewide has shown signs of recovery during the past year, Miami University economist, John Bowblis, says middle class jobs have been slow to return. "So you're sort of getting this dichotomy going on of people with high skills getting paid high wages and people who don't have those skills can't find middle income jobs so they're sort of stuck in what we'll call the lower skill jobs." Says Bowblis. 45 year old Regina Boyd of Columbus says she knows what Bowblis is talking about. "I am overnight stock at Walmart." Says Boyd. Boyd says she's working, in part, to pay off a student loan and has also recently taken temporary jobs at Honda and Radio Shack. Right now, she's trying to make up for some lost hours at the Walmart job. "Yeah, well now because the holiday season is over, Walmart has simply not been requesting as many temporary workers. Honda works us sometimes. So yeah it's very, very slow." Boyd says. Bowblis says the Great Recession has accelerated employer efforts to find efficiency among its workforce and that has led to fewer mid-level permanent jobs in administrative support or jobs that require repetitive tasks in a warehouse or factory. Many of those type jobs are now done with the help of technology. "So what has happened is is that you need fewer people to manufacture the same amouont of goods. That's great for consumers because it means goods are cheaper but it's bad for employment because it means you don't need as many workers." Bowblis says. Bowblis says there's also a knowledge gap in the current workforce. He says too few workers really know how to analyze data in a fashion that's useful for business. Franklin County commissioners say they are trying to fill that knowledge gap by offering a $300,000 grant to identify and educate workers for the 500 new jobs at IBM's Columbus Data Analytics Center.